Golfers Eye Upward Mobility
Originally Published in the Vanderbilt Flagship
of baseball immortal Satchel Paige's rules for life reads,
"Don't look back; someone might be gaining on you."
collegiate golf elite -- that rule is directed toward you.
And Vanderbilt's women's team is that someone who's closer
appear in your rearview mirror.
top-5 team finishes in the first four tournaments of this
season have propelled the Commodores to number 19 in the
latest Golfweek.com poll.
Vanderbilt embarks on its spring slate of tournaments, opening
at Florida's Lady Gator Invitational February 23-25, first-year
coach Martha Freitag insists that her squad is here to stay
we're ranked, I don't even think we've played our best golf
yet. I really feel like the best is yet to come for us,"
said Freitag. "We turned a lot of heads this fall,
and that was a lot of fun. For us to beat a lot of the teams
that we beat this fall, they're not used to being beaten
by Vanderbilt. And my feeling is, I hope they get used to
it." Instinctively, Freitag at once highlights and
downplays the significance of Vanderbilt's early exposure
among the nation's elite programs. "I
don't think we're ever going to have huge galleries in college
golf. I think we'd be kidding ourselves if we thought that,"
Freitag surmised. "But I think increased awareness
happens when you start playing better, because people want
to write about you. When you're ranked 51st, nobody cares
what you're doing. Now all of a sudden you get ranked in
the Top 25, and people start to pay attention.
excited about the rankings, because we're going in the right
direction, but the rankings are only relevant to the point
to helping us recruit and also helping us get invited to
the NCAA tournament." Freitag has been busier than
Casey Martin's cart driver since her undergraduate days
as a two-sport star at Stanford. She's served as an assistant
coach at her alma mater and the University of Texas, headed
the Boise State program for a year, and played on the LPGA
Tour for two seasons. Freitag was attracted to Vanderbilt's
revitalized administration and its limitless potential.
a great fit for me," said Freitag of her newest post.
"To me it was the challenge to build something. I felt
like everything was in place here in terms of the right
people, with Todd Turner and Chancellor Gee. Especially
at a private institution you've got to have a chancellor
or president that understands the relationship that athletics
and academics can have."
special was afoot for the Commodores when they kicked off
the 2000-01 season with a surprising fourth-place finish
at Auburn's Tiger-Derby Invitational. That event was also
a coming-out party of sorts for sophomore Nicki Cutler,
who shot a season and team-low 69 on the second day and
finished fourth herself. Cutler has sliced five strokes
from her per-round average of 80.25 from a year ago and
has qualified as the biggest surprise of the young campaign.
very level on the golf course. Nothing rattles her,"
Freitag said of Cutler. "She doesn't get super excited
about birdies, and she doesn't get down about bogeys, which
is a great mentality for golf. If she hits a bad shot. .
. it's like she's done with it and on with the next shot."
Meredith Ward has also played outstanding golf this season,
but her consistency was expected; she was named Second Team
All-SEC and won Vanderbilt's first-ever individual title
at Tulane last season. Freshman Sarah Jacobs, a product
of Nashville's Davidson Academy, is not only producing great
rounds on the course, but may be a conduit for future local
recruiting by Freitag and her staff.
want to pay particular attention to the state of Tennessee,
because it's always great to get kids like Sarah Jacobs,
and Joanie Gossett," said Freitag. "They'll bring
a little more recognition; people can identify with them,
they've seen them in the paper, they've seen them in high
going to recruit the state, but I'm also going to go after
the very best kids in the country. We're not going to sell
ourselves short." Gossett, out of Germantown, and Veronica
Yatko (Monroe, LA) are Vanderbilt's two signees for 2001-2
and illustrate Freitag's recruiting strategy. Gossett in
particular should sparkle out of the gate for the Commodores.
her sophomore year here, there's going to be a lot of teams
across the country that will be saying, 'Oops, should have
signed her,'" said Freitag of Gossett. "She just
can't wait to come here and be a part of this success."
is it too early for the perennial top-10 programs like Duke
and Arizona to be taking a peek over their shoulders, looking
for the Commodores' advancing fleet? Freitag doesn't discount
we have enough talent? Yeah, but we've got to get accustomed
to being there, and this is still so new to these kids.
My feeling now is this is not the Vanderbilt team of old.
We are nobody's doormat. Nobody's wiping their feet on us.
going to be a Top-10 team. We're going to be a team that,
instead of asking for invitations, we're going to turn down